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Gender Differences in Associations between Religious Attendance and Mental Health in Finland


The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 2000 - Volume 188 - Issue 11 - p 772-776

We investigated in a nationwide sample of the Finnish general population (869 women and 773 men) whether there were gender-differences in associations between religious attendance and mental well-being. Respondents were asked during telephone interviews about sociodemographic variables, frequency of religious attendance and social contacts, and perceived social and family support. Mental health was screened by means of the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). More women than men (62% vs. 50%) attended religious events, and there was a corresponding difference in percentages relating to regular religious attendance (17% vs. 10%). Regular religious attendance was most common among those over 65 years of age. In women, minor mental disorder (GHQ-12 score ≥ 3) was more common among those who never attended religious events than among the others (25% vs. 16%). In men there was no difference. In women, religious attendance associated positively with social contacts, in men with happy family life. In multivariate analyses an independent positive association between religious attendance and absence of minor mental disorder was found in women (adjusted OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.24) but not in men. These results suggest that there may be gender-differences in associations between religious attendance, social and family life, and mental health.

1 Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, P.O. Box 1777, FIN-70211, Kuopio, Finland. Send reprint requests to Dr. Hintikka.

2 Lung and Health Association, Helsinki, Finland.

3 Population Research Institute, Helsinki, Finland.

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.